It’s getting hot outside. As temperatures rise, an increasing percentage of people are going to overdo it. It happens every year.  If you’re one of the unfortunate people who succumbs to the effects of the heat, can you tell the difference between heat exhaustion and heat stroke?

Here are some guidelines to help you tell the two apart.

Heat exhaustion is the first step. Symptoms can be similar to, but less severe than, heat stroke. If you don’t listen to your body’s warnings to cool down and hydrate, and you keep exerting yourself, your heat exhaustion symptoms will worsen.  At this point, you’ll start getting light headed, dizzy, and you may develop a sharp headache, in addition to feeling your muscles cramp.

Heat Stroke isn’t something that will just happen all at once to you.  There’s a build-up to that condition. Your body will warn you first.  The first things you’ll experience on the way to a heat stroke are sweating, thirst, headache, fatigue, and mild heat cramps, which are caused by a combination of exposure to the sun and physical exertion. Heat stroke can damage your organs.

You’ll know a heat cramp when you feel it because you’ll start sweating even more than usual, you’ll get extraordinarily thirsty, and you’ll start cramping in either your arms, legs or stomach.  If you feel these symptoms, stop what you’re doing, find some shade and hydrate! Drink a glass of water followed by some Gatorade or something similar so you can put some electrolytes back into your system too.

At this point, you may need to lie down somewhere cool, drink plenty of fluids and maybe even take a long, cool shower to start your body on the road to recovery.

If you’re stubborn and you still don’t stop, your body temperature will spike, reaching 104 degrees or higher, you’ll stop sweating, you’ll get nauseated, and start breathing rapidly.  Your heart will start beating rapidly too, and you’ll become visibly confused and disoriented. This is heat stroke.

When you reach this stage, forget home remedies.  Someone needs to call the hospital for you to get you proper treatment.  Please do not let yourself get to this point!  Stay safe out there.